The Chicago White Sox completed a comeback with a strange but victorious conclusion Friday night against the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota entered the contest ahead of the White Sox by three games. A Guardians loss to Seattle provided the Sox and Twins an opportunity to gain ground in the standings. It added some fuel to the fire of what turned out to be a hotly contested game.
The South Siders went with an opener strategy as reliever Joe Kelly took the mound first despite Davis Martin being the scheduled starter. Twins' righty Sonny Gray last pitched against the White Sox in July. It was a 12-3 shellacking to open four-game series with looming disaster scenarios for the Sox before the All-Star break.
Kelly had opened before, but not since his 2020 campaign with the Dodgers. The veteran labored through the first inning and eventually recorded the final out but not before Nick Gordon put the Twins ahead 2-0 with a bases-loaded double.
Martin was thrown into the fire in the second with the Sox already trailing. He was tasked with holding the Twins at bay to give the White Sox' bats time to get even. The rookie did just that and held Minnesota scoreless through five innings. He allowed just three hits and one walk while fanning two.
The White Sox' offensive performance wasn't pretty but it worked. The Sox evened the score at two in the fourth when Andrew Vaughn continued his hot hitting against Twins' pitching. The second-year slugger lined a leadoff double and advanced on a groundout.
Yasmani Grandal followed with a looper over third baseman Gio Urshela, who was playing in, to get the Sox on the board. Josh Harrison took one for the team with the bases loaded when he was hit on the right arm allowing a run scored.
"We’re getting on a roll. We’re getting consistent at the plate, we’re having good at-bats, pitching well," Vaughn said. "Got to keep rolling every day."
After a couple of scoreless frames, the Twins found a way to plate the go-ahead run. Back-to-back hits off Jimmy Lambert to start the eighth put runners on the corners. Nick Gordon drove in his third run of the game when he scalded a ground ball to second baseman Romy Gonzalez. The Sox' infielder didn’t field it cleanly and there was no play at the plate. Former White Sox' outfielder Billy Hamilton was thrown out trying to steal third for the second out of the inning.
The White Sox wasted no time getting even in the bottom half of the eighth. Grandal hit a towering fly ball on the first pitch of his at-bat to tie the game at three.
Things got tense in the bottom of the ninth. The South Siders started a rally thanks to back-to-back singles with one out. Jorge Lopez then delivered a pitch up and in to Vaughn and nearly hit him in the head.
Both team's benches and bullpens emptied onto the field and the AL Central rivals met face-to-face near the mound. After a lot of jawing and some pushing, things settled down but not before acting manager Miguel Cairo was ejected.
"That was at my head, that ain’t right," Vaughn said of Lopez's chin music offering.
"I was just really mad. I’ve been hit up high a few times. Got hit in the face a couple of weeks ago. Spur of the moment, I was mad, I was upset. I know he’s not trying to do it on purpose."
"That's a reaction that I want to protect my player," Cairo said of his exchange with Rocco Baldelli. "When I saw him coming over here, he was protecting his players. Of course I'm going to go protect my players."
Jose Abreu, the very next batter, appeared to take a pitch off his hand to end the game in walk-off fashion. Fireworks went off and the team celebrated. However, the Twins challenged the call, which was overturned.
Abreu then hit a ground ball that Lopez deflected, which spoiled a chance at a double-play. The walk-off run scored and the White Sox celebrated again.
Miguel Cairo said he wasn’t sure how long Luis Robert would be on the paternity list. Robert welcomed the birth of his second child - a boy. He is eligible to return after one day but may be out for up to three days.
The White Sox selected the contract of outfielder Mark Payton from Triple-A Charlotte prior to the game. The 30-year-old has 20 homers and 77 RBIs in 104 games for the Knights.
Aaron Bummer was moved to the 60-day IL, and the club could activate him as soon as Saturday.
Injured or Not?
Eloy Jimenez did not start after departing early from Thursday’s win against Kansas City. He did pinch hit for Gavin Sheets in the eighth innings, however.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins do battle again Saturday at 6:15 PM CT. Dylan Cease will start for the home team and Tyler Mahle gets the ball for Minnesota. After missing time due to right shoulder inflammation, Mahle is making his first start since Aug 17. The game will air nationally on FOX.
Tune in to the Sox On Tap podcast for postgame reaction and further White Sox commentary all season.